We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the 2nd prize winners of our “Mega Dunes Eco Lodges - Abu Dhabi” competition – Natalia Wrzask and Rolando Rodriguez - Leal from Mexico!

Natalia Wrzask and Rolando Rodriguez - Leal from AIDIA STUDIO

AIDIA STUDIO is a platform of experimental design in architecture, urbanism and other creative disciplines that works across scales and typologies.

The term AIDIA was born as transliteration of the English word idea [ahy-dee-uh, ahy-deeuh] into Spanish and Polish. Every project starts with a brainstorm of ideas but only the best one sifts through the creative process and materializes into the final product. In the transliteration of ‘idea’ into AIDIA we also find a palindrome which is a word, phrase or number that reads the same forward or reversed. In design, palindromes can be translated into cyclical patterns or re-iterative loops. They can be simple diagrams or the source of incredible complexity.

The studio was founded by Rolando Rodriguez-Leal and Natalia Wrzask who met in London in 2005 while working for Foster + Partners. In subsequent years they also collaborated with Rafael Viñoly Architects, Zaha Hadid Architects, and with Ateliers Jean Nouvel. In 2018, Rolando and Natalia co-founded AIDIA STUDIO, an architecture and design workshop based in London and Mexico City.

Natalia Wrzask graduated with honours with a degree in architecture and urban design from the Technical University in Gdansk, Poland in 2005. She is a registered architect both in the UK (RIBA, ARB) and in Poland (IARP).

Rolando received his bachelor in architecture from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City in 2002. He was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in housing and urbanism in the Architectural Association in London. Rolando has been a guest critic at Tsinghua University in Beijing, as well as Universidad Iberoamericana. He currently is an Adjunct Professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana and is leading the Design and Digital Fabrication Studio. Rolando is a licensed architect in Mexico (CAM SAM) and holds a LEED Green Associate credential.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company/individuals have been involved.

AIDIA STUDIO works in multiple typologies and across scales. From interiors to master plans, always striving for site-specific responses with intricate, sophisticated beauty and complex simplicity.

In 2018, the studio was nominated for the "NYCxDESIGN Awards 2018" by the Interior Design Magazine for the Mobile Meditation Studio project. In 2019, the studio was awarded the Rifat Chadirji Prize 2019 by Tamayouz Excellence Award for their first place in the competition for the Barjeel Museum for Modern Arab Art in Sharjah; the studio also won the second prize for the proposal of the Birdwalk Flamingo Observation Platform in the Abu Dhabi Al Wathba Nature Resort; a competition by Buildner.

The studio has been a special guest at the Time, Space & Architecture Exhibition part of the Venice Biennale in 2021, Gdynia Design Days 2018 in Poland and the Beijing Design Week 2012.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

We understand architecture as the process by which design ideas can be tested to respond to specific conditions found in the built and natural environments. We strive for geometrical complexity and site specificity to ground our projects in their time and place. The role of the architect in today's societies should be about developing narratives that enable fresh and innovative solutions to common problems.

One of the big current problems that needs to be addressed by architects is the negative environmental and social impact of buildings. Sustainability is the key in enabling and developing a positive agenda in the development of projects. By utilizing design methods and materials that are not detrimental to the surrounding ecosystems and communities, architects play a big role in ensuring that the actions taken today do not have negative consequences for future generations.

Why do you participate in architecture vision competitions?

We treat competitions as a means of testing lines of research currently being developed within the studio. We target specific subjects that help us expand our portfolios and where we can implement our research in complex geometries and sustainable design. The subject of the Mega Dunes Ecolodges was perfect for combining these two.

In addition, we have times the vast desert areas close to the Liwa Oasis in Abu Dhabi several times and have been enchanted by the overwhelming beauty and poetic peace of the orange, towering dunes. It is a place where you feel very much connected to the energy of the Earth. Our proposal of the Oculus is meant to preserve this powerful feeling you have while visiting the Empty Quarter.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture vision competitions?

Competitions are a design challenge which you do for yourself in order to brainstorm new, fresh ideas which might not be suitable for common architectural projects. They build your creativity and expand your horizons and are beneficial for the professional development of any architect or designer.

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